India: Kashmiri journalist rearrested under draconian PSA12 Apr, 2022
Kashmiri Journalist Aasif Sultan, who was granted bail on April 5 after spending almost four years in prison under India’s ‘anti-terror’ act, has been rearrested on April 10 and booked under Jammu and Kashmir’s Public Safety Act (PSA). The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Indian affiliate, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU), condemn the misuse of the draconian PSA to harass and detain journalists and urge the Indian authorities to immediately release Aasif Sultan.
Sultan was originally detained in August 2018, accused of ‘harnessing known militants’, criminal conspiracy, and aiding and participating in militant activities under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and various other sections of the Ranbir Penal Code, now the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Before his arrest, Sultan, then assistant editor at news magazine the Kashmir Narrator, had published an article titled ‘The Rise of Burhan’, regarding the leader of an armed group active in the region.
The journalist was granted bail by a special court of the National Investigation Agency after three years and eight months in prison, finding that the state was not able to provide sufficient evidence to prove his linkage to any militant organization. However, police rearrested Sultan only days later on April 10, placing him in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail.
Under the PSA, Sultan can be held for up to two years without a formal charge against him and without trial. Detainees under the PSA do not have the right to move a bail application, nor hire any lawyer to represent them.
Sultan is the third Kashmiri journalist to be arrested under the PSA during 2022. Fahad Shah, editor of The Kashmir Walla, who faced multiple charges since his initial arrest on February 4, was sentenced under the PSA onFebruary 14. Journalist Sajad Gul was also detained on January 16, 2022 under the same act.
The IJU President Geetartha Pathak, said: “Indian Journalists Union (IJU) expresses grave concern at the re-arrest of journalist Asif Sultan, who was granted bail earlier this week in a UAPA case. The IJU urges the authorities not to use draconian laws like the PSA against journalists and allow journalists to perform their duties without any interference.”
The IFJ said: “Aasif Sultan’s prolonged detainment and immediate rearrest violates the fundamental rights to freedoms of press and expression enshrined in the Indian constitution. The completely arbitrary new charges under the PSA are a blatant attempt to silence critical and independent reportage in Jammu and Kashmir. The IFJ urges the Jammu and Kashmir authorities to immediately release Aasif Sultan and ensure that journalists can work freely and independently, without fear of persecution.”